I lived with Job in the apartment he shared with Anton for about a month before they moved into the Pink House. They were both friends of mine from Kentwood dorm. They had both allowed themselves to fail out. When you have minds as sharp and dangerous as Job and Anton, the only way you are going to fail out of college is if you let yourself do it. Both of them had become addicts and had lost their place in the school.
At Kentwood there was a front porch, a place for everyone to gather and hang out. This was where you stopped on your way to class, on your way to your room. This was the catch-all, where you could find between no one and about twenty people at different times. Anton and Job became addicted to the front porch.
Chairs and tables and a cafeteria at the dorm, and their rooms upstairs, they had no reason to go anywhere else. They hung out together and waited for others to come join them. They were there from morning to morning, and they did nothing else. When they dropped out, they got jobs and an apartment, and I ended up living with them. You’ll find out how. Don’t get impatient. I’m trying to do a thing here.
Anyway, everything was great until Anton got tired of me living with them. We were at the Pink House by this time, and he had a room, Job had a room, and I was on the futon in the living room. Things became more and more intense between Anton and I, and they were nearing a boiling point.
At this time Anton had stopped paying his rent and the house was owned by Job, so things were heating up. Anton kept yelling that I wasn’t cleaning up his messes, or any messes at all. The therapy thing was growing in intensity.
Job said he was not throwing me out no matter what, and Anton was ready to strangle me in my sleep. I was talking about it one day in therapy and Steven snapped out as if in a haze.
“You moved out of the house with Bekah,” he said.
Just wait, I told you I would get there. Be patient.
“Yeah, I did.”
“Do you pay rent at this new place you are at?” he said.
“How could I? I have no job. I have no money. I have no way to pay for my own food.” I laughed and shook my head. “If Job gets frustrated with me, I’m out. I don’t know where I would go.”
Steven shook his head. “Your body comes first. Head second.”
“I said your body comes first. As you stand now, you are basically homeless.”
“What?” I said.
“You have no way of taking care of yourself. You can’t put a roof over your head, food in your stomach. The most important thing is that we see to those things before we see to your mental health. I am setting you up with an aid and we are going to straighten you out.”
He made a phone call.
Urgent was a small woman with tan skin and dark hair. She was friendly and driven, and she had her job nailed.
She took me out of the house and we went to a building not far from my house. We sat at a table in a very large room, and she pulled out a brown leather folder and opened it.
“What do you need?” she asked.
I looked at her for a few minutes before I smiled and leaned back in my chair. “Can you explain what it is you do?”
She nodded. “Certainly. I am a case worker. I hook people with needs up with services that can help them out of the precarious situations they find themselves in. I will be your emergency case worker, for lack of a better word. I will get us started and when I feel you are ready, I will hand you off to a more long-term service worker.”
I leaned forward and looked across the table at her. “What kind of services are we talking about?”
“Government housing, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, hospital care, psychiatric care. I can get you a home and help you feed yourself,” she said.
I leaned back, shaking my head. “I don’t want to live on a couch.”
“Few people would choose that if they had other options.”
“Job is fantastic, but Anton is falling deeply into hate of me and that will break off soon.”
“What do you think you will need from me?” Urgent asked.
In the end, it was all of it. Housing papers needed to be filled out. Food stamp applications needed to be filled out. We would spend hours filling out the paperwork for disability. We spent hours sitting in the free clinic so I could get meds for my bipolar, which she was appalled to find out I was not being treated for. We got Medicaid. We got the medical treatment.
She worked hard and we met every week at least once, and when she was done with me, I had food. I had a grant that gave me 75 dollars a month to live on, which I know doesn’t sound like much but I am frugal when I need to be. I made it work.
Urgent gave me a chance. A chance at a situation where I could stand on my own. I had not had an apartment of my own since I came to Springfield. I always had a roommate or lived in a dorm. The idea of having my own living space again was intoxicating.
One day after we had met for about two months, she took me to that same room and in it sat a tall, beautiful, blonde woman with a kind face and impeccable hair. I was set in front of her and Urgent motioned to me and said, “Jesse, I would like you to meet Sunshine.”
I shook her hand and smiled.
She smiled, too.
We knew each other. I had gone to visit Ty and Bravo at their college campus years ago and had been at a party with Sunshine. We had played spin the bottle. I had kissed every guy there and every girl. I didn’t remember it very well but it meant nothing to me now. Now she was an ally. And the fact that I already knew her gave me hope that I had never had with Urgent.
“It’s nice to meet you, Sunshine,” I said.
“Can’t wait to work with you, Jesse.”
Urgent gave me a chance. She set me down the path that allowed me to heal in private and in safety. She was tireless in her work ethic, and in every way is a warrior for good. I will never forget her and I will always love her.
Sunshine became an ally for life. She is a sister to me. We are going to see a lot of her. She is a big deal. She saved my life and gave me one. She was a guiding force for good. And she was Shade’s first friend. My love for her is boundless and never wavering.
I was separated from her in 2003. She had a kid and quit being a case worker. When she was leaving, I asked her how we were going to stay in touch. She squeezed my hand and said, “We have found each other twice. If we are meant to be friends, we will find each other again.”
Sixteen years later I was at a book signing in Kimberling City and was approached by Sunshine. She is an agent. She is a co-author for a Young Adult book. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and we reconnected. She watches me from afar and I know that when I need her, she will be there.
I’m going to show you how amazing she is. And why I dedicated this book to her.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.